FAQs and Facts About HBCUs

As you develop your college list, you might come across the term “HBCU.” These letters stand for “Historically Black Colleges and Universities”. But what exactly does that mean for you? Can you apply to them even if you’re not a minority? Keep reading to find out what HBCU means and some of the best ones in the United States!

Student at an HBCU.

What are HBCUs?

HBCU stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The term really refers to schools that primarily served African Americans prior to the Civil Rights Movement of 1964. Most HBCUs—over 100 schools in total—were founded after the American Civil War. After Congress passed the Second Morrill Act of 1890, states who did not have integrated land grant colleges and universities had to establish land grant schools for black students.

Generally, these schools are located in the southern states. Formed in 2015, the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus advocates their interests in Congress. It has 30 Representatives as members of the caucus. HBCUs also receive funding from the federal government due to their historical status.

Why Are Historically Black Colleges Important?

Originally, HBCUs were created to give freed slaves and their ancestors an opportunity to work towards higher education and career opportunities. Today, they supply experience for African Americans, help them to be a part of their community and culture, and assist them with academic achievement gaps that still exist.

Who Can Apply to an HBCU?

Anyone can apply to an HBCU! They have actually always accepted students of other racial identities, and several of them now have larger percentages of non-African American students.

Though the black student population has decreased at HBCUs, the schools maintain that they are continuing their original missions of providing academic opportunities for those who might not have many options (this Time article has some interesting points on this). Studies have shown that African American students tend to have better support systems at HBCUs. They also tend to be more comfortable in their sense of well-being after graduation according to this Gallup poll.

How Many HBCUs Are There?

As of January 2020, there are 107 HBCUs–56 being private and 51 being public. Together, these schools have 228,000 students enrolled. It is important to note, though, that 3 of the 107 are currently closed.

The state with the most HBCUs is Alabama, a few examples being Alabama A&M University – Huntsville, Miles College, Talladega College, and Tuskegee University.

Do you Have to Be African American to Attend an HBCU?

No, you do not have to be African American to attend an HBCU. Morgan State University in Baltimore has actually seen a rising number of non-African American students apply and attend in recent years. African Americans still make up the majority of students at Morgan, however, representing about 79% of the student population.

However, many HBCUs across the country are actually working to become more diverse.

10 Top HBCUs

Here are just some of the best HBCUs in the United States!

1. Spelman College

Spelman College is the oldest all women’s HBCU in the country, founded in 1924. The school accepts just over 50% of applicants and many go on to study Psychology, Biology, and Political Science.

2. Howard University

One of the most impressive historically black colleges in the nation, Howard produces the most black doctorate recipients of any non-profit institution. From its foundation in 1867, the school has been open to students of all genders and races. Notable alumni include writers Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and actress Taraji P. Henson.

3. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University is also known as Florida A&M. Founded in 1887, it is the only public HBCU in the state. Many students will major in Health Services, followed by Psychology and Business Administration and Management.

4. Hampton University

Also known as “Home by the Sea,” Hampton University looks south across the harbor of Hampton Roads. The school’s acceptance rate is 44% and its student-to-faculty ratio is 13:1. Hampton student-athletes wear blue and white to compete in NCAA Division I sporting events and are known as the Pirates.

5. Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier University of Louisiana is found in New Orleans and was founded in 1925 as a Catholic school – it’s actually the only Catholic HBCU today. A majority of students major in Biology, followed by Psychology, Public Health, and Chemistry.6. 

6. North Carolina A&T University

Sometimes referred to as simply A&T, the North Carolina A&T University got its start in 1891 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race. The school would undergo several name changes over the years. It is currently the largest HBCU in the United States.

7. North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) was originally named the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua for the Colored Race when founded in 1909. It is currently part of the University of North Carolina system.

8. Fisk University

Fisk University is a small HBCU located in Nashville, TN. The campus itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was the first African-American institution to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)

9. Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University accepted just over 81% of applicants in the 2021 admissions cycle. Many went on to study Registered Nursing, Biology, Health Care Administration, and Kinesiology and Exercise Science.

10. Morehouse College

Morehouse College is an all-male HBCU located in Atlanta, Georgia. It was founded in 1867, and is a member of the Atlanta University Center. When the college first opened, it was a seminary university, but in later years it would start adding liberal arts curriculum.

Historically Black Colleges are an excellent option for all students if it fits your wants and needs in a school. Finding the right college for you, though, doesn’t have to be difficult. College Raptor’s College Match tool helps you identify the best schools for your wants, needs, goals, and achievements. Get started for completely free here!